SDPI's silent shadow protected Savad, gave him new life while on the run, say police

  • Father-in-law a hardcore SDPI activist, with obvious links to PFI: Police
  • Most of the hideouts of Savad in the past 13 years were pocket boroughs of the SDPI
Savad presented before NIA court in Kochi. File Photo: Manorama

Kasaragod: Savad Meerankutty (38) -- the prime accused in the 2010 hand-chopping case -- might have been in Kerala almost throughout his 13-year-life as a fugitive, said police officers preparing a report on the SDPI-PFI activist's time in hiding.

"As of now, we have no evidence of him leaving Kerala. Surely not after his marriage to a Kasaragod woman in February 2016," said a Deputy Superintendent of Police attached to Kerala Police's Crime Branch unit.

Savad had a clean double life and never came in conflict with the law. "That could partially explain why he managed to evade arrest for so long," the officer said.

Savad's stolen freedom came to an end around 4.30 am on January 10, when officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) knocked on the door of his rented house at Beram in Kannur's Mattannur municipality.

A native of Noolely in Ernakulam's Asamannoor Grama Panchayat, he was wanted for chopping the right hand of T J Joseph, a Malayalam teacher at Newman College in Thodupuzha over an alleged blasphemous question paper he set for his BCom students.

TJ Joseph, Savad. File Photo: Manorama

There were 54 accused in the case and a special NIA court convicted 19 persons. Savad, suspected of escaping to Bengaluru after the crime, was the only accused to remain absconding, though NIA had declared a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on him.

Did he live in SDPI's shelter?
The police officers said they could see the silent shadow of the SDPI in not only harbouring Savad but also giving him a wife and new life.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) is perceived as the political arm of the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI) which had a nebulous membership. However, the Election Commission sees SDPI as a separate independent entity.
In Savad's remand report, NIA clubbed the two organisations by saying that the activists of SDPI/PFI attacked Joseph.

The police officers tracing Savad's fugitive life said he lived in hiding in places where SDPI had influence, be it Manna in Valapattanam, or Vilakodu in Muzhakkunnu grama panchayat near Iritty or Beram, from where he was arrested by NIA sleuths.

"We see a SDPI's hand even in his marriage. His father-in-law is a hard-core SDPI activist," said the DySP. 
When asked if that meant the father-in-law was linked to the PFI, the officer replied in one word: "Obviously".

The father-in-law, a resident of Thuminad, said he met Savad at Sayed Muhammad Shareeful Madani Dargah, popularly known as Ullal Darga, on the outskirts of Mangaluru, near Kasaragod.

The father-in-law said Savad introduced himself as Shajahan and he grew fond of him with every interaction. Later, he asked Savad to marry his eldest daughter. "We don't buy this narrative," the officer said.

The father-in-law is a native of Ullal but moved to Thuminad in Kasaragod's Manjeshwar, his wife's place 20 years ago, the DySP said.

At Thuminad, he drives an autorickshaw for a living. Savad's marriage was held at Al Fatr Juma Masjid or Kukaje Masjid at Thuminad in February 2016. The father-in-law produced a certificate for his daughter from Aayiram Palli, the parent mosque, but the marriage was registered without Savad producing any documents, said the police officer. "Now that is not possible unless someone influential puts in a word for Savad with the mosque committee," he said.

Savad used the name Shajahan in the marriage certificate.
To be sure, the father-in-law said he did not go looking for Savad's relatives because he said he was an orphan. "He said he was from Manna in Valappattanam... My wife's family was against the marriage, especially without verifying his antecedent," he said. He prevailed over the wife's family. "I did not enquire into his family background because he said he was an orphan. And I trusted him," he said.

The DySP said the police are working to find the person who introduced Savad to the family from Thuminad. The poor family has 10 children, he said. "The person who put Savad in the family would surely be an SDPI activist, who knew Savad's past," said another police officer.

After marriage, Savad and his new wife stayed at his in-law's house for two weeks and returned to Manna in Valapattanam.

Manna is in Chirakkal grama panchayat but close to Valapattanam. "The place has all political parties. The SDPI there is largely inactive. But the Muslim League is influential there," said P J Prajith, a CPM panchayat member of Valapattanam.

Before going to Beram in Mattannur, Savad and his family stayed at Vilakodu in Muzhakkunnu Grama Panchayat in Kannur's Iritty taluk during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. He stayed in a house, which belonged to an SDPI activist and auto driver, who was his namesake. The latter's brother Unaiz, also an SDPI activist, is serving life sentence for the murder of CPM Chakkad branch secretary Naroth Dileepan, who was killed on August 8, 2008.
Claiming to be from Kasaragod, Savad kept a low profile during the time. As Covid restrictions were in place, neighbours did not read too much into the family's aloofness.

He said he was from Manna in Valappattanam... My wife's family was against the marriage, especially without verifying his antecedent

Savad's father-in-law

"Vilakodu has a strong presence of SDPI. The panchayat member from Ayyappankavu, the next ward, belongs to SDPI," said P P Musthafa, a former panchayat member from the area. The family with one daughter was living in an old house, and he was working as a carpenter, he said.

From Vilakodu, Savad and his wife moved to Beram. When they moved to the new place, the couple had a daughter and the woman was pregnant with their second child.

At Beram, a person called Riyas got him a house and also carpenter work, said residents. "The NIA should be checking the background of Riyas," said a resident.

Despite living as Shahjahan, Savad used his original name on the birth certificate of both his children, one born in November 2018, and the second in 2022.

The family was ready to move to another location by the end of January, said Beram residents.

File photo: Manorama

But his father-in-law claimed that he had no clue about Savad's dual life. "I came to know that he was involved in the hand-chopping case when my daughter telephoned my wife after he was arrested and TV channels started showing the news," he said.

The police officers said they have got enough details to submit a report. "Based on the report, the department can seek the custody of suspects (people who helped Savad hide from police) him for questioning," the DySP said.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.